Lone Frank is the author of The Neurotourist: Postcards from the edge of brain science. She holds a PhD in neurobiology and was previously a research scientist in the biotechnology industry. An award winning science journalist, she has written for many top publications. She lives in Copenhagen. Her latest book is My Beautiful Genome.
I was always fascinated by knowing about and understanding the world, especially the living world. Then, in high school I was completely bowled by the first taste of the mysteries of the nervous system. I knew right then that I wanted to work with brains and went through university with that goal in mind. Having gotten my Ph.D. by way of killing rats and slicing up their brains for three years, the specialisation of a research career would stand in the way of seeing the bigger picture. So I quit practical research and went into science communication in order to concern myself with that more general understanding which was the original fascination.
Why this book?
What most interests me about science is how it affects our culture and way of thinking. And right now, what is about to change our thinking about our selves is the development in genetics. You could call it the genetic revolution’s second wave. It is biology’s parallel to the PC revolution. Just like computers changed our lives when they made the transition from expert tool to cheap every day commodity, consumer genetics will influence us by becoming a ubiquitous factor. Within a foreseeable future we will all routinely handle personal genetic information. It will not only shape personal health care but give us radically new in-sight into the basis for our mental habitus – personality, IQ, temperament etc. I think this will cause a cultural shift by ushering in a much more biological view of who we are. By sharing my personal journey into consumer genetics, I hope to open this wondrous new world to those who think genetics is academic and abstract. From now on, genetics is all about you.
There is much talk of ‘dark matter’ in the genome and ‘missing heritability’. I believe the coming years bringing massive whole genome sequencing of humans from all ethnic groups will throw light on the mysteries of how certain combinations of genetic variants and environmental factors together result in various phenotypes. My bet is there will be big surprises, some perhaps exploding our ideas of how heritability works – it will be thrilling to follow the discoveries.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
I find it really fascinating to watch how the world map of science and research is in flux. Especially Asian countries like Singapore, South Korea and certainly India and China are getting into the game big time and the question is whether or how this will affect the priorities and directions of research in the future.